So you might be wondering why the F there's only one post since December? Well, I've been really busy with my full-time job (yes, I have a full-time job) and with music (yes, I'm musician (and not to waste this awesome place without advertisement check my stuff out on SoundCloud)), and with my own training so there was no time and energy for articles. But now I'm back and ready to kick some ass. So today's topic is weighted calisthenics. I wrote an article on what is better: weights or calisthenics? You can check it out here. But current topic is not about what is better. It's about the ways to utilize external weights to make calisthenics more challenging and interesting and how to make bodyweight strength progressions easier. Yepp, that's right.
How I Discovered Weighted Calisthenics for Myself?
You might think: "Are you retarded or what? Every bonehead gym rat knows that you can add weight to bodyweight exercises to make them harder". Well, I knew that too as well. And I knew that weighted vests are awesome training tools. The problem is that they cost a lot. If you can afford them - cool, buy one without even thinking, if you are into this calisthenics thing. But Rough Strength is all about training without any luxuries or, in other words, with as little investment in equipment as possible. So ordering a weighted vest from USA or Europe was bad option for me. And by bad I mean expensive, of course. Some time I thought about making one myself. I drew some sketches, calculated how much weight can I add, thought about what to take as additional weight (sand or what?) etc. But all this remained as a project. So I decided keep it simple and train calisthenics strength exercises with bodyweight only (ta-da!).
Lately, I came back to idea of weighted calisthenics (because of lack of progress in some difficult exercises). But this time I discovered much easier way. The backpack. First thought was: "Fuck, it was so obvious". But it’s always like that in life, you think hard on things to come up with some really simple idea. So here's a photo of my little beast and his friends:
The main problem was what to put inside. Luckily I have some generally useless objects that I can put in without any regret (look on photo above).
Of course, backpack is not the same as weighted vest. I probably can't use it for handstand work and sequences of exercises involving upside down position of body. But that's, I guess, it. Everything else can be successfully done weighted. So the obvious question is how to use this little dude to get stronger?
Weighted Calisthenics in Practice
There are generally two ways of using external weight in calisthenics movements:
- to make basic exercises harder
- to make easier transitions from one progression step to another
How to Make Basic Exercises Harder
I think all of you know that you can stay with your favorite bodyweight exercises longer (after you mastered them) if you add weight to them. The brilliance of this method is that you don't need to learn new movement patterns. If you mastered ring dips or ring chin-ups then you can stay with them longer just by adding external weight. This will be good for building muscle. Why? Because resistance is progressive and pattern is the same. One of the reasons why barbell is better for building muscle is fact that the movement pattern stays the same. Besides, you don't need to sacrifice exercises in which you feel your muscles the most (which is great for hypertrophy). Often you can find that when you progress from exercise to exercise you may start feeling different muscles more. The only way to prevent this is to stay with the same exercise but to make it harder. That's where weighted calisthenics can make big difference compared to pure bodyweight training. Here's me cranking out some reps in towel chin-ups (awesome exercise for grip strength) with added 8 kg:
But if hypertrophy is not your concern there's no need to bother. Or is there?
How to Make Easier Transitions from One Progression Step to Another
My primary goal is always strength. If you're trying to build strength with bodyweight exercises you definitely were in situation where you have already mastered the progression step but still can't move to the next one. That's where weighted calisthenics are really handy. If you can't progress from one step to the next, guess what, add weight and progress until you will be able to do this. This is relevant for static positions too. I often find that I progress good to 15 seconds hold max. Progress further seems impossible. So why bother if I can just add weight, be in comfortable time range and progress. I believe progress is all that matters. So adding weight might be the cure you're looking for. Here's a video of me doing low ring assisted One-Arm Chin-Up with additional 3.5 kg:
So it's time for some conclusions and tips. Adding weight to bodyweight exercises is powerful weapon. Use it wisely. Don't rush things. The fact that progressions can be easier doesn't mean that you can add more weight than you can handle. Slow and steady progress will always be better than meaninglessly adding large amounts of weight. Show some discipline. As always thanks for reading. Share this as much as possible, spread the knowledge.
I would love to read your thoughts on weighted calisthenics in comments.